Sweet little lies, p.18
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       Sweet Little Lies, p.18

         Part #1 of Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis
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  He was still smiling when her next text came in:

  There’s a key hidden on the top of the doorjamb.

  He let himself in, crawled into bed with her and pulled her warm, sleeping form in close.

  “Finn?” she murmured sleepily, not opening her eyes.

  Well, who the hell else? “Shh,” he said, brushing his mouth over her temple. “Go back to sleep.”

  “But there’s a man in my bed.” She still hadn’t opened her eyes, but she did wind her arms around him tight, pressing her deliciously soft curves up against his body, sliding one of her legs in between his. “Mmm,” she said. “A hard man . . .”

  And quickly getting harder. “I didn’t mean for this to be a booty call—”

  “Finn?”

  “Yeah?”

  “Shut up.” And she rocked against him so that his thigh rasped over the damp heat between hers, taking what she wanted from him.

  He loved that she’d figured out that her confidence and belief in herself was as sexy to him as her gorgeous body.

  “Mm,” she hummed in pleasure, rocking against him, making him even harder. “I wonder what to do about this . . .” she mused.

  He rolled, tucking her beneath him, and buried himself deep. “Let me show you.”

  Chapter 19

  #JustLikeThat

  Typically as summer progressed and more tourists poured into San Francisco, Pru got buried in work. This summer was no different. She worked long days, during which time she dedicated most of her daydreams to one certain sexy Finn O’Riley and what he looked like in her bed.

  And what he did to her in it . . .

  “What are you thinking about?” Jake asked her at the end of a shift while she was doing paperwork. “You keep sighing.”

  “Um . . .” She struggled to come up with something not X-rated. “I’m thinking about how much of a slave driver you are.”

  “Uh huh,” he said, not fooled. “You tell Finn yet?”

  “I’m getting there,” she said, her stomach tightening in panic and anxiety at the thought.

  “Pru—”

  “I know, I know!” She blew out a breath. “You don’t have to say it. I’m stalling. Big time.”

  His voice was quiet, almost gentle. “You’re really into him.”

  She closed her eyes and nodded.

  His hand slipped into hers and he squeezed her fingers. “You want a chance with him.”

  She nodded again.

  “Chica, to have that chance, you’ve got to tell him before your window of opportunity closes and things go too far.” He waited until she looked at him. “Before you sleep with him or—”

  Oh boy.

  “—I’ve got this,” she said. “I know what I’m doing.” But they both knew she had no idea what she was doing.

  That night, Elle and Willa dragged Pru out for “ladies’” night.

  They surprised her when they ended up at a lovely spa, snacking on cute little sandwiches and tea before deciding on their individual treatments.

  Pru stared at the spa’s menu, a little panicked over the luxury that she couldn’t really afford.

  “It’s my treat,” Elle said, covering the prices with her hand. “This was my idea. I owe Willa a birthday present.”

  Willa smiled. “Cuz I can’t afford it either.”

  “But it’s not my birthday,” Pru said.

  “Pretend,” Elle said. “I want a mani/pedi and a Brazilian, and I don’t like to primp alone.”

  Which is how Pru ended up with a mani/pedi and her very first Brazilian.

  The next day it rained all day long. Pru joked to Jake that after eight long hours on the water—in the rain—she felt like Noah.

  Jake felt no mercy at all. “Make the money now, chica. Come wintertime you’ll be whining like Thor does for that mini chow across the street, the one who’s got fifty pounds on him and would squash him like a grape if given the chance.”

  So she worked.

  At the end of another crazy day, she changed out of her uniform into a sundress and left Pier 39. She was Thor-less. After a stunt where he’d rolled in pigeon poo for some mysterious reason that only made sense to himself, Jake had once again taken him to the South Bark Mutt Shop for grooming.

  All Pru wanted to do was to go home and crawl into her bed. For once she was too tired to even dream about having Finn in that bed with her. She wouldn’t be able to lift a finger. Or a tongue.

  Not that she’d mind if he insisted on doing all the work . . .

  But that fantasy would have to wait. She had an errand to run before getting home, hence the sundress. She wanted to look nice for her weekly visit.

  She walked up the steps to the home where her grandpa lived and signed in to see him.

  Michelle, the front desk receptionist waved at her. Michelle had worked there forever, so they were old friends.

  “How is he today?” Pru asked her.

  Michelle’s easy smile faded. “Not gonna lie, it’s a rough one, honey. He’s agitated. He didn’t like his lunch, he didn’t like the weather, he didn’t like wearing pants, the list goes on. He’s feeling mean as a snake. You want to come back another day?”

  But they both knew that the bad days far outweighed the good ones now, so there was no use in waiting or she might never see him. “I’ll be fine.”

  Michelle nodded, eyes warm, mouth a little worried. “Holler if you need anything.”

  Pru took a deep breath, waved at Paul the orderly in the hallway, and entered her grandpa’s room.

  He was watching Jeopardy! and yelling at the TV. “Who is Queen Victoria, you jackass!” He picked up his cane and waved that too. “Who is Queen Victoria!”

  “Hi, grandpa,” Pru said.

  “No one ever listens to me,” he went on, dropping his cane to shake his fist at the TV. “No one ever listens.”

  Pru moved into his line of sight and picked up the cane for him, wondering if he would know her today. “It’s me, Pru—”

  “You,” he snapped, narrowing his eyes on her, snatching the cane from her hands. “You’ve got some nerve coming here, Missy, into my home.”

  “It’s good to see you, Grandpa. You sound good, your cold’s gone from last week, huh? How are you feeling?”

  “I’m not telling you shit. You were a terrible influence on my son. You encouraged him to be a good time, to party, when you knew—” He jabbed the cane at her for emphasis. “It’s your fault he’s dead. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

  This hit her hard but she did her best to ignore the hurtful words. “Grandpa, it’s Prudence.” She purposely kept her voice low and calm so that maybe he would do the same.

  No go.

  “Oh I knew who you are. I knew you for what you were the first day I saw you,” he said, “when Steven first brought you home. He said ‘this is Vicky and I love her,’ and I took one look into your laughing eyes and I knew. All you wanted to do was have fun and you didn’t care what fell by the wayside. Well, I’ll tell you what, our business fell by the wayside because he wanted to spend time with you, not that you even noticed. Our business went into the ground because of you, because you didn’t care if he had to work—”

  “Dad worked,” Pru said. “He worked a lot. Mom just tried to get him to enjoy life when she could because he did work so hard—”

  “You were trouble with a capital T, that’s what you were,” he snapped out. “And you still are. Told you that then and I’ll tell you again. You’re Trouble to the very bone.”

  She’d frozen to the spot. She’d had no idea that her grandpa had called her mom Trouble, that he thought she’d been a bad influence on her dad simply because she’d wanted him to have a life outside of work.

  The irony of this was not lost on her.

  What was lost on her was how long she must have stood there, mouth open, gaping, letting old wounds reopen and fester because her grandpa grabbed something from the tray by his bed and chucked it at her.

 
; She ducked and a fork skidded across the floor.

  “Okay,” she said, raising her hands. “That wasn’t nice. Grandpa, I’m not my mom. I’m not Vicky. I’m your granddaughter Pru—”

  “I don’t have a granddaughter!” A piece of toast came hurtling her way, which she also dodged. “You killed him, Vicky. You killed him dead, so go rot in hell.”

  The words spilled from him, cruel and harsh and this stopped her cold so that she didn’t duck quickly enough the next time.

  His mug caught her on the cheek.

  “Ouch, dammit!” she said straightening, holding her face. “You’ve got to listen to me—I’m not Vicky!” She went hands on hips. “Grandpa, you are not two years old, you need to stop with the temper tantrums!”

  “That’s right,” he yelled. “I’m not two, I’m a million and two. I’m old and alone, and it’s all your fault!”

  Up until that very moment she’d somehow managed to separate herself from what he was saying, but suddenly she couldn’t. Suddenly she wasn’t feeling strong and in charge and on top of her life. She was just a girl who’d lost her parents, who had a grandpa whose elevator didn’t go to the top floor. She was doing the best she could with what she had, but it wasn’t adequate.

  She wasn’t adequate, as proven by her track record of no one loving her enough to stay with her, and the terrifying thing was, she didn’t know how to be more.

  “Get out!” he bellowed at her.

  Paul appeared in the doorway, looking startled. “What’s going on, Marvin?”

  “What’s going on is you let her in!” And in case there was any doubt of the “her” in question, her grandpa stabbed a spoon in Pru’s direction.

  “Okay, now let’s just take it down a notch,” Paul said, doing his orderly thing, moving between Pru and her grandpa. “Put that utensil down, Marvin. We don’t throw stuff here, remember?”

  But Marvin couldn’t be deterred. “It’s her fault! Get out,” he yelled at Pru. “Get out and don’t come back, you tramp! You son-stealer! You good for nothing free-loading hussy!”

  Michelle poked her head in, her eyes wide. “Paul, you need help?”

  “We’re good,” Paul said evenly. “Aren’t we, Marvin?”

  “No, I’m not good! Can’t you see her? She’s standing right behind you like a coward. Get out!” he bellowed at Pru. “Get out and stay out!”

  Michelle slipped into the room and put her hand in Pru’s. “Come on, honey. Let’s give him some alone time.”

  Pru let herself be led out of the room, heart aching, feeling more alone than she ever had. Her grandpa had never been the best of company but he’d at least been someone who shared her blood, her history . . . and now he wasn’t remembering any of that and all she did by visiting him was upset him. She might have to stop coming entirely and then she’d be completely alone.

  You already are . . .

  She walked home slowly even though it was misting and she was wearing just the sundress and sandals. Her heart hurt. Rubbing it didn’t assuage the deep ache that went behind the bone to her wounded soul. She missed her mom. She missed her dad. And dammit, she’d missed feeling whole.

  She missed feeling needed. Wanted. Like she was crucial, critical to someone’s life. A piece of their puzzle.

  Instead she was a tumbleweed in the wind, never anchored. Never belonging to anyone.

  With her head down and her thoughts even lower, she nearly ran right into someone on the street. Two someone’s, locked in an embrace, kissing as if they were never going to see each other again. The man’s arms were locked around the woman, an expression of love and longing on his face as he pulled back, still holding the woman’s hands.

  Had anyone ever looked at Pru like that? If so, she’d forgotten it, and she didn’t think one could ever forget true love. All she wanted, all she’d ever wanted since the day she’d lost her parents, was for someone to care enough to come into her life and stay there.

  Her chest tightened and her throat burned, but she refused to give into that. Crying wouldn’t help. Crying never helped. All crying did was make the day a waste of mascara. And since she’d splurged on an expensive one this time in a useless effort to give her lashes some volume, she wasn’t about to waste it. Get it together, she ordered herself. Get it together and keep it together. You’re okay. You’re always okay . . .

  But the pep talk didn’t work. The lonely still crawled up her throat and choked her.

  The man smiled down at the woman in front of him, his gaze full of the love that Pru secretly dreamed of. He took his girl’s hand and off they went into the rain, shoulders bumping, bodies in sync.

  It broke her heart more than it should have. They were complete strangers, for God’s sake. But watching them made her feel a little cold. Empty.

  A crack of lightning lit the sky. She startled and then jumped again at the nearly immediate boom of thunder, sharp and way too close. Skipping the wroughtiron entrance to the courtyard, she instead ran directly into the pub.

  She stood just inside, her eyes immediately straying to the bar.

  Finn stood behind it with Sean, who was addressing everyone in the place, and all eyes were on him.

  Except for Pru, who was watching Finn. He stood at Sean’s side, his blank face on. Though Pru knew him now, or was coming to anyway, and she could tell by his tight mouth and hooded eyes that he wasn’t feeling blank at all.

  “So raise your glasses,” Sean concluded, lifting his. “Because today’s the day, folks, our first anniversary of O’Riley’s, which we modeled after our dear departed Da’s own pub, the original O’Riley’s. He’d have loved this place.” Sean clasped a hand to his heart. “If he were still with us—God bless his soul—he’d be sitting right here at the bar with us every night.”

  The mention of this loss would normally have made Pru’s heart clutch because of her family’s part in their loss, and there was certainly some of that, but she hadn’t taken her eyes off Finn. He wasn’t sad. He was pissed. And she thought maybe she knew why.

  His dad hadn’t been anything like hers. He hadn’t cuddled his sons when they’d skinned a knee. He hadn’t shown them love and adoration. He hadn’t carried them around on his shoulders, showing them off every chance he had.

  But for whatever reason, Sean was telling a different story. She had no idea why, but Finn’s feelings on the matter were clear.

  He hated this toast.

  “We miss him every single day,” Sean went on and finished up with a “Slainte!”

  “Slainte!” everyone in the place repeated and tossed back their drinks.

  Sean grinned and turned toward Finn. He said something to him but Finn didn’t respond because he’d turned his head, and as if he’d felt Pru come in, he’d leveled his gaze right on her.

  If she’d thought the oncoming storm outside was crazy, it was nothing compared to what happened between her and Finn every time they so much as looked at each other.

  You’re trouble with a capital T.

  Her grandpa’s words floated around in her brain, messing with her head, her heart.

  One look into your laughing eyes and I knew. All you wanted to do was have fun and you didn’t care what fell by the wayside.

  She couldn’t do this. She’d thought she was doing the right thing by helping Finn find some fun and adventure in his life but now she knew she wasn’t. Worse, she felt too fragile, way too close to a complete meltdown to be here. And yet at the same time, she was drawn, so terribly, achingly drawn to the strength in Finn’s gaze, the warmth in his eyes. She knew if he so much as touched her right now, she’d lose the tenuous grip she had on her emotions.

  Go. Leave.

  It was the only clear thought in her head as she whirled to do just that but Finn’s warm, strong arms slid around her, turning her
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